The Rev. Ernest Davis Jr., closes his eyes while the choir sings at a revival at Bethel A.M.E. Church Wednesday.
ALBANY — Of all of the comments that flowed from the lips of those who attended this week’s joint revival services of two of Albany’s oldest churches, one simple question rose above the others: Where does it go from here?
In a community where racial division has long permeated most of the levels of the social structure — even tainting the most sacred of sanctuaries in the heart of the Bible belt — two churches, one predominately white, the other predominately black, dared to do one simple thing: raise the bar.
“Sometimes we look at our community and say we can’t do any better. We can’t get past our issues; we’ll never overcome racial problems; it’ll never happen, not in Albany, Georgia,” the Rev. Garrett Andrew, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church and the principal preacher at this week’s revival, told a packed church Wednesday night.
“That’s a pretty low bar. We have a God that can do anything. A God that can bring churches together, and can bring people together. So go tell people, go tell the naysayers, the unbelievers; go tell Albany that this community can indeed change,” Andrew said.
Andrew’s sermons each of three nights were rooted in the Old Testament book of I Kings and II Kings, chronicling the story of the prophet Elijah.
At times, the California-born Presbyterian minister sounded more like a Southern Baptist preacher — triggering choruses of “Amen,” “that’s right,” and “preach on it” from the audience.
The Rev. Ernest Davis Jr., the pastor at Bethel A.M.E. who envisioned inviting Andrew and his First Presbyterian flock into the sanctuary at Bethel for its revival services, told those gathered at the church on the final night of the event that it was something special.
“I don’t know if I’ll see something like this again in my lifetime,” Davis said. “But I thank God that I was a part of it.”
Following the service, Davis said that he felt the event was a success and that he’s praying for what God does next in Albany.
“It’s a good feeling to look out into the crowd and see people from other churches; or people that maybe don’t have a church at all,” Davis said. “Maybe that means God’s word is getting out there. Maybe that means there is hope for something brighter.”
The revival attracted preachers and members of other churches and members of the city, county and school board’s elected leadership.
Melvin Nixon, one of the many who packed into the sanctuary Wednesday night, said he’s ready to see where it goes.
“I want to know what’s next,” Nixon said. “This has been great.”
Before stepping away from the pulpit, Andrew did what he typically does at his home church at the end of his sermons — issue a challenge to those in attendance.
“The challenge is to do what God wants us to do next. While it’s been good on the mountain top, there’s much work that needs to be done in the valley,” Andrew said. “I can’t wait to see to see what God has in store for this community next.”
Editor’s note: Reporter J.D. Sumner is a regular attendee of First Presbyterian Church.